Article by Justin Imler
Welp, if there was any hope left for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown to hash things out before the 2019 season, there isn't anymore. Earlier today the star wide receiver took to social media to bid fair well to Steeler nation, saying "...time to move on and forward... #NewDemands"
This post was also with a small highlight reel to the song "Now I Do What I Want" by rapper lil Uzi. After this was posted on Brown's twitter and instagram accounts, it was reported shortly after by ESPN reporter Adam Schefter that he has officially requested a trade. This is a straight punch in the gut to the Steelers organization, as well as all of Steeler nation. The possibility of a trade has been in the air ever since Brown decided to drop all contact with the team prior to their week 17 matchup with the Bengals, resulting in him not playing in the game. However, up until this morning, there have been comments hinting at the possibility of Brown staying in Pittsburgh still being on the table.
After following various outlets of sports media all day it seems that Brown's main frustration was that he was being the scapegoat for all of the Steelers' drama on and off the field, and that he simply wants a fresh start. Brown's relationship with the Steelers has been an unstable one to say the least, with Pittsburgh tolerating a lot of his antics due to his exceptional play on the field, but it seems like the best thing to do for both sides is to part ways once and for all.
Below I'm going to address several common questions that have been surfacing since this news broke this morning.
Who's to Blame?
Obviously Antonio Brown is to take most of the blame for all of his off the field antics over the years. It seems like instances like the one in week 17 have been going on for years, whether it's the attitude issues, being late to meetings, gaining special treatment, etc. This is simply a guy who knows he's the best, and wants to be treated as such, even if that means putting himself above the team. Antonio Brown is 30 years old and handled this whole situation very poorly. You don't completely cut all contact from your team, and then release comment after comment on social media just to draw more attention to yourself. Brown is a professional athlete, but surely hasn't acted like it.
Someone else that I'm going to put the rest of the blame on is head coach Mike Tomlin. I for one have not been much of a fan of Tomlin in recent years, and this is because of one simple reason, he's a PLAYERS COACH. Being a coach is like being a manager. You can't be someone's boss, and be their best friend at the same time, but this is what Tomlin has been trying to do anyway. At the end of the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a TEAM, and as the head coach, Tomlin needs to treat every player on the team equally. There is no room to give special treatment to any one or group of players, no matter how talented they are.
What Teams Will Be Interested In Brown and What's His Value?
Right now there are two teams that I think have the best shot of landing Antonio Brown.
1. The San Francisco 49ers
I think they have a solid shot mainly because this is clearly where Brown has hinted at wanting to play, and the niners know this. They're in dire need of a true number one receiver for Garoppolo and that young offense, and I think they have the assets, and draft picks to go out and get him.
2. The Oakland Raiders
This one might come as a shock to most but I could really see this move happening. John Gruden is all about star power and really needs to start adding pieces around Derek Carr sooner rather than later. They have a TON of draft picks in this years draft, including three in the first round. If Gruden wants an established star in AB, he definitely has enough draft picks to entice Pittsburgh.
What's His Value?
I've seen a lot of different opinions on this today but personally, I think the Steelers are foolish to trade him away for anything less than a second round pick (or a third/forth and an established player). Yes, all of the off the field distractions surely limit his value some, but this is one of the best wide receivers of all time we're talking about. If AB gets the fresh start he wants, I'm sure the off the field issues will diminish, and I'd be willing to bet there will be at least a couple teams in a bidding war to land the star WR.
What Will the Steelers do Moving Forward?
I've been preaching this ever since the trade rumors surfaced, I am not worried about this current Steelers offense if AB gets traded, as long as #7 is still throwing the ball. Juju Smith-Schuster has proven that he can take over as a WR1, and with other weapons like Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Ryan Switzer, and James Washington all returning, Ben has plenty of options to throw the ball to. The one concern that I do have is that of James Washington. His rookie season was a disappointing one for sure, but he'll have to bounce back in a big way for next season if he wants to take over that WR2 position, which I think he can do. Also, don't rule out the possibility of Pittsburgh drafting a WR early in the draft if they get a pick or two in exchange for Brown.
Overall, it's extremely disappointing to see how everything turned out, but at the end of the day, professional sports is a business. Even though Brown didn't handle this in the most professional way, these things happen and I truly believe the Steelers will be more than fine next season. Le'Veon Bell and Brown will both be gone. Easily the two biggest off-the-field distractions will be off the team, and Pittsburgh can go back to becoming a TEAM again, because at the end of the day, that's how teams like the Patriots are Super Bowl contenders year after year. It's time the Steelers stop acting like the Kardashians, and start acting like a team, and trading Brown will be a huge step in that direction.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment your thoughts and opinions on the drama surrounding the Steelers and Antonio Brown!
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